The vast majority of parents and children were Mexican-American residents of Monterey County, Calif., who were participants in the ongoing Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas study.
Eskenazi said that her team focused on this group for practical reasons of access, and out of a particular interest in exploring the current PBDE situation in California. PBDE use in that state was particularly high, starting in the 1970s.
The blood samples were analyzed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the same time, the children (ages 5 to 7) underwent rigorous mental capacity tests (covering verbal and reasoning skills, attention, behavior and memory) as well as coordination assessments. The mothers also reported their observations regarding their child's behavior.
Eskenazi's team found that although the mothers they tested had relatively low levels of PBDEs in their blood (compared with the general U.S. population), their offspring nonetheless had high levels. This suggests that the children have continued to absorb PBDEs after birth as a result of environmental exposures inside their homes.
"These chemicals stay in the body and in the environment for a long time," Eskenazi noted.
Children with higher blood levels of PBDEs tended to have deficits in attention, IQ and fine motor skills compared to kids without such levels, the team reported. While the study noted an association between higher PBDE exposures and childhood neurodevelopment, it could not prove cause-and-effect relationship.
According to the study authors, however, the findings do suggest that an item as innocuous as an old couch sold in California -- one that would have been fully code-compliant as recently as 10 years back -- would likely be embedded with PBDE and might pose a continuing risk to children.
The findings are published online Nov. 15 in Environmental Health Perspectives.'/>"/>
All rights reserved